Members of union federation Cosatu in Western Cape may go on strike next month if socioeconomic issues are not urgently addressed, provincial leader Tony Ehrenreich has said.
“There will be a generalised strike across the Western Cape if we’re unable to deal with those social issues that affect workers; that is education, public transport, electricity pricing, [gangsterism], all those social issues,” he told reporters in Cape Town today.
“There’s got to be an engagement with the provincial government, the city of Cape Town, the municipalities, the labour movement and general civil society.”
Ehrenreich said Cosatu’s affiliated unions would be convinced to call off the general strike if officials showed a willingness to meet, discuss, and “partner” on these issues.
He warned of further provincial strikes in the agriculture sector.
Farming towns across the province came to a standstill between November and February during a protest by workers against poor wages and harsh living conditions.
The protests led to Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant increasing the daily minimum wage for farm workers to R105, after input by farmers and workers.
Ehrenreich said they had taken lessons from the last strike.
“The last strike that happened was really not unlawful but unregulated. We hadn’t followed procedures,” he said.
Cosatu would conduct future agricultural strikes in terms of section 77 of the Labour Relations Act. This section gives workers the right to protest to promote or defend their socioeconomic interests.
The act gives the National Economic Development and Labour Council the task of bringing the parties to a section 77 notice together to attempt to resolve the reasons for the contemplated protest action.
“The added advantage (of section 77) is that if we don’t find a solution in agriculture this will be a national strike.”
Ehrenreich said more details would emerge at a national conference in the next two weeks.
He was asked for his opinion on whether the strikes would affect investor confidence.
“All of us want to ensure that we remain a destination for investors … (but) all of these tensions undermine the prospects for South Africa to be a stable investment in the long-term,” he said.
Ehrenreich said wage bargaining and industrial development plans created an environment where investors could “take comfort” in long-term stability.
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